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i32             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
squatted close to the steps, and two or three worshippers stopped on their way to or from the mosque to exchange scraps of conversation. A lemonade-seller, wearing the gaudy striped crimson robe of his trade, and carrying a huge tilted brass urn and a row of tumblers, looked quizzically at me, and then moved away. A quaint old man with an enormous beard sat on a little grey donkey which trotted past with its patriarchal burden. The usual street multitude stirred hither and thither. The air was tremulous in the afternoon heat, while the sun hung in a bowl of glorious blue.
Within the sacred precinct of the mosque was century-old peace; without it was this seething, jostling, trafficking crowd noisily bent on its business. Thus the two faces of life, with Allah sheltering both beneath his ample wings.
I was walking early one evening across the Square of Ismailia when I noticed a carriage driver leave his empty carriage on the stand and climb the low green-painted iron railing which fenced off a small locked-up, municipal-owned garden. He prostrated himself upon the ground under the setting sun in the direction of Mecca, and proceeded to pray for six or seven minutes quite oblivious of the world around. He was lost in his devotions, looking neither to right nor left; obviously overwhelmed by his religious feeling. This beautiful action touched me deeply, both on account of its artistic effect and as evidence of spiritual loyalty. A policeman, stationed for traffic duty in the Square, watched him unconcernedly and let his trespass go without the slightest interference.
Another night, about the hour of ten, I wandered over to a lonely stretch of road along the Nile bank for a quiet stroll. Under the electric light of a solitary lamp-post, I discovered a young lad with a birch broom, a street sweeper employed by the town authorities. His back was propped against the iron post; and he was evidently taking a brief respite from his toil beneath a night sky which was like a cupola of lapis-lazuli. He sang aloud in joyful tones as he read the tattered pages of a small book, at which he peered with short-sighted eyes by the lamplight. He sang with such real fervour, and was so rapt in his words, that he was oblivious of my approach. His eyes glowed with the fire of joyous aspiration to Allah. I took the